Treatment with leeches (hirudotherapy- from Latin Girudo that means leech) was known since ancient time. Medicinal leeches are as old as the PyramidsRecords indicate that Egyptians used leech therapy over 3,500 years ago and leeches are included in the hieroglyphics on the walls. Pharaohs used leeches in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Cleopatra used leeches to treat an infertility. She have tried many different methods but only after use of unique treatment she was able to produce four children. Leech therapy was used to treat a wide range of conditions, from headaches to hemorrhoids.
Greek physicians Hippocrates(460BC-370BC) and Herophilos(335-280 BC) used medicinal leeches, among
other methods for blood letting to remove blood from a patient.
Aelius Galenus (AD 129 – 200), a physician and philosopher and the most accomplished medical researcher of the Roman era who believed that blood was the main fluids of human body and the one in most need of control. Romans were the first to use the HIRUDO name for leeches.Leech therapy or HIRUDOTHERAPY survived the fall of the Western Roman Empire and remained popular throughout the Middle Ages.
Indeed, by the mid 1800’s the demand for leeches was so high that the French imported about 33 million leeches a year for medical purposes. England imported 7 million leeches a year from France alone considering that population of London was only 2.3 million people. There also was an explosion in the use of leeches in Asia and the Middle East. Many abandoned leeches with the advent of antibiotics in the 1930’s.
Leeches in medicine are coming back!
In the Act of June 28, 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared and approved for the first time the commercial marketing of Medicinal Leeches for medicinal purposes and classified medical leeches as medical device.
Facts about Leeches
Leeches are segmented worms that belong to the phylum Annelida - subclass Hirudinea.
Recognized 700 species: most of them are freshwater animals
Leech equipped with three jaws and almost 300 chitin teeth
Five pairs of eyes
Leech size varies among families and can reach up to 20 cm in length
Don't eat often. Can leave up to a year without food
Sucks the blood in a volume 5-15 ml. It is about tablespoon of blood.
Only few types of leeches considered for medical application. Leech species like hirudo medicinalis, hirudinaria manillensis, hirudo nipponi, hirudo verbena, hirudo orientalis, and haementeria depressa.
The salivary glands of leeches contain over hundred highly active biological substances - special enzymes that have the properties of preventing thrombus formation, interstitial improve metabolism, help get rid the body toxins, prevent aging of the tissues.